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Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Parthenocissus quinquefolia and its attractive autumn colour

It’s that time of year again when the legacy of the previous owners rears its ugly head, or should I say ever-creeping tendrils. We have a fence that is just over 5ft tall and it is shrouded in Parthenocissus quinquefolia. A vigorous climber is an understatement for a plant that can happily cover whole buildings if given the chance. Our small fence, in comparison, just isn’t enough to satisfy its ambitions.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Climbing skyward through the apple tree

‘Why don’t you get rid of it?’, I hear you say. Well that’s the second problem, you see there is a slight difference of opinion in the Welly household as to the fate of said climber. I think it should go, to be replaced by something less rampant. Wellyman, on the other hand, wants it to stay. He loves the colours in autumn and the fact that it creates a mass of foliage along the fence. I agree that the autumnal hues are lovely and that it is a shame to remove an established plant that would create a large bare patch until something else could replace it. However, the Virginia creeper puts on so much growth during the summer, it’s like something out of the Triffids. It makes a bid for anything in its wake, such as the crab apple and the fatsia, wrapping its long stems around another plant’s branches. Every month or so during the summer, unless we want to be engulfed by the stuff, I have to get in with the secateurs and cut it back in a vain attempt to control it.

After a fraught battle with it last summer, I declared that Wellyman was in sole charge of it, otherwise it was coming out. He agreed that was reasonable but of course practicalities get in the way. He is out at work every day and comes home to several hours of Open University study, allowing little time for plant wrestling. Invariably, when he has free time it’s raining. So there lies the problem. I stand at the sink washing up almost being able to see the dreaded plant inch its way through my garden. I go to the shed and see its tendrils crawling through the tree. I drop off the veg peelings at the compost bin and see it moving skyward. Hopefully, there will be a dry spell this weekend which will mean Wellyman gets the chance to attack it, as it’s no longer within my reach anyway.

I’m sure we’re not alone in this battle of wills regarding the garden. I know a couple who share an allotment but they’ve divided it into two parts so they have one section each to avoid disagreements. To be fair, Wellyman does leave most garden and allotment decisions to me as I’m generally the one doing the work but for some reason the Virginia creeper is a sticking point.

But I think what niggles me the most is the fact that the previous owners picked the least interesting variety to grow. If you want a plant that aspires to world domination at least pick the prettiest. Parthenocissus henryana is less vigorous than quinquefolia, although it still grows up to 9 metres tall. It has much more delicate foliage, which is darker and thicker with a velvety texture and has silvery white veins. Now if this was growing up against our fence maybe I would be less inclined to remove it.